Tech Support: Networking for Blacks in STEM

In 2008, I found myself trying to decide on a problem to study for my doctoral dissertation.  Most of my classmates were studying problems in their workplace.  For most of them this meant studying a problem in education as they were educators.  I, however, was working in the corporate world as a software developer.  A classmate suggested that I study an issue related to African American software developers.   I remember thinking to myself, what African American software developers?

As Oprah would say this was my “aha” moment.  I decided to study and write about this subject and start a blog where I could keep aspiring African-American tech professionals informed about the latest industry news, opportunities and opinions.  I approached one of my marketing savvy co-workers who said I should call it simply, Where Are Blacks In Technology?  I have been blogging my thoughts on the digital divide ever since.

In her book, Stuck in the Shallow End, Jane Margolis reports on the importance of networks to African Americans in technology to combat the issue of isolation.  At the time I began my blog there were not many sites devoted to the issue of under-representation of African Americans in technology.  Recently, there has been an explosion of new organizations dedicated to the topic.  Here are my favorites:

BlacksGirlsCode
Black Girls Code is a grassroots organization seeking dynamic partnerships with both organizations and individuals who share a common interest in exposing girls to opportunities in STEM.  The mission of BGC is to increase the number of women of color in the digital space by empowering girls of color ages 7 to 17 to become innovators in STEM fields, leaders in their communities and builders of their own futures through exposure to computer science and technology.

Blacks In Technology
Blacks in Technology (BIT) is the largest online social community of Black Technologists.  With nearly 1000 members, BIT’S goal is to create an atmosphere where Black technologists and engineers can network, learn, share knowledge and help one another develop and grow their careers.  Greg has since created a who’s who of African American technologists who are working to “stomp the digital divide” via visibility, perception, and participation. 

The National Black Information Technology Leadership Organization
The National Black Information Technology Leadership Organization (NBITLO) is a non-profit organization designed to support the goals of black technology leaders by equipping them with resources and professional development designed to strengthen and refine their skills in support of the larger vision. 

Sites like these provide the professional network our young people will need to combat the isolation so often experienced by African Americans when embarking on a STEM career.

In the past, the lack of support networks made it difficult to recruit more African Americans into STEM fields. We now have these networks and need to make sure that our young and aspiring technologists are made aware that they exist.  Consider yourself informed!

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Posted in Education, STEM, Uncategorized.

9 Comments

  1. Great resources!!! And that’s just the ‘Tech’ side of thing! About with boundaries becoming more fluid, academics becoming more integrated, I’m optimistic we’ll see our young people going into STEM (whatever flavor) and becoming leaders.

    Thanks for this post!

  2. Of course another networking group is BDPA. In Cincinnati we are collaborating with Greg Greenlee to conduct monthly face-to-face meetups of ‘Cincinnati Blacks In Technology’.

    • Wayne,

      I originally had BDPA in the piece but the word restriction got me. I thought to include the newer groups to help get the word out about them.

  3. There’s an excellent organization in Washington, DC, founded by Leshell Hatley, that engages African-American and other youth in STEM by teaching them how to make mobile apps, robots, and games; explore career options; and inspire students to pursue careers in computer science. My three sons participated in Uplift Inc.’s Youth APPLab that was funded by a grant won from the MacArthur Foundation in 2010. In the first year, my oldest son and another student programmed a business card app in less than thirty minutes at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in 2011. That experience inspired my son to pursue a career in software engineering. My youngest son started in the program when he was seven and by the time he turned eight, he had two apps on Google Play. Not only did this program give them the knowledge to make and publish apps, but it also inspired my two oldest boys to start their own business, Snikwah Interactive. Today, Snikwah Interactive has three apps on the market with about 2500 downloads.

    Website: http://www.upliftdc.org/index.html

  4. Hi Kai,
    Your blog post came up in my Google alerts. I work for a nonprofit organization called Level Playing Field Institute. Our mission is to “eliminate the barriers faced by underrepresented people in science, technology, engineering and math and foster their untapped talent for the advancement of our nation.”

    We do this through our education programs: SMASH (http://www.lpfi.org/smash) and SMASH Prep (http://www.lpfi.org/smashprep) and our Research.

    I thought you might be particularly interested in one of our research reports that discusses hidden bias towards underrepresented people in IT. http://www.lpfi.org/tilted-playing-field-hidden-bias-information-technology-workplaces

    • Bianca,

      Absolutely. This will go right into my lit. review. Thanks for reading the blog. I hope to do more frequents post as my time frees up.

  5. I am an IT professional, but currently out of work. I am interest in your efforts and how I can help.

    Please contact me, I look forward to speaking with you:

    Paulette Singleton, B.S Information Technology, VCU
    IT Professional
    National Photographer
    psingle0895@gmail.com
    804-243-4774

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